May It Please The Court
Quote of the Day - Cogito ergo dim sum. (Therefore I think these are pork buns.)
Environmental Pork Awards Handed OutIs $75 million practically worthless? I argue yes.
Sure, the USEPA awarded $75 million to assess, clean up and train people about Brownfields (in other words, not all the money is going to clean-up). But estimates for the total cost to clean up the nation's contamination are dramatically larger. One estimate, made in 1994, put the total cost of clean up at $75 billion (now grossly undervalued, some pegging it as high as $75 trillion now, including all we know and all media - radioactivity, greenhouse gases and the like, too).
So what is $75 million buying us? 1,000 new environmental jobs. Almost sounds like the WPA.
We also get Nine Regions of grants, including this gem in Puerto Rico to allow the Army Corps of Engineers to prevent flooding. Did I miss the brownfields contamination issue there? A cool $200,000 that won't even begin to touch rechannelization.
We also get to search in Kauai, Hawaii (they're kidding, right?) for possible contamination. And, we get to spend another $200,000 doing it.
If your community didn't get its pork, you can get it here.
Off-road Vehicles Can Freely Roam BLM LandsThe Supremes have spoken once again. This time, it's against environmentalists. They sued the Bureau of Land Management over the BLM's failure to prevent off-road vehicles from damaging wilderness study areas.
Unfortunately, the environmentalists didn't sue when the BLM approved the wilderness study area, so they tried an end-run, and sued under the Administrative Procedures Act.
As you already know, the Supremes didn't buy it. In fact, they slammed the environmentalists in a short, 17-page opinion.
Now, you can feel free to drive all over creation. Subject, of course, to the rules and regs of wherever you are.
Tortured Lawyers and War CrimesWar crimes are something that we've seen before, and will likely see again.
But here's an unfamiliar twist - lawyers who may be potentially liable for war crimes. This article admittedly argues for liability, and is not balanced. The author thinks the government lawyers didn't do a thorough job analyzing the relevant laws.
Here's the deal: when asked to prepare a memo analyzing whether prisoners taken in Afganistan were subject to various war convention agreements, the government lawyers didn't do a thorough job. Their analysis ignored duties imposed by the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (which the United States ratified with reservations in 1994) and the federal torture statute, which creates criminal liability for U.S. nationals who commit torture abroad under color of law.
The government lawyers, on the other hand, argue that they were merely providing an opinion to back up decisions that had already been made.
But, does that mean that the lawyers are liable for the abuses and war crimes? They're tough questions.
"No Surprise HCPs?" Not AnymoreIn 1998, the Fish & Wildlife Service acted to give residential real estate developers some comfort when it came to obtaining permits to build. The developers had been hit in the past with "surprises" after they obtained permits. Commonly, new information about endangered species would come to light, and prevent development - typically after a rather substantial financial investment by the developer to get ready to build.
The FWS came up with the "no surprises" rule in response. Once you got a permit, it stayed valid.
Guess what? The developers just got handed a surprise. Seems that some environmentalists, the Spirit of the Sage Council and five others, didn't like that rule.
They thought that the rule, designed to give finality to Habitat Conservation Plans simply allowed species to go extinct.
Homebuilders are none too happy. "Now, a permit isn't worth the paper it's written on," said Duane Desiderio, a vice president of the National Association of Home Builders. He described the ruling as a serious setback for his industry, especially because most species whose survival is imperiled are found on private property and near developed areas. The NAHB pressroom doesn't have much else to say.
The court has stayed further implementation of the rule until mid-December, and sent the FWS back to the drawing board to get additional public input to rewrite the rule.
We've not heard the last of this one yet.
New Biology, Weird OutcomesTwo days in a row on a rant. This one is all about the new biology.
Here's the deal. Husband contracts cancer. Husband freezes sperm. Husband dies. Wife is fertilized with frozen sperm (don't ask me to get into the details). Wife (nee widow) has dead husband's twin babies 10 months after he's in the ground. You count the months.
So far, so good, except it gives me the willies.
Then, wife/widow gets the idea to apply for survivor's benefits. Huh? The new babies weren't surviving at the time the husband died. Other than perhaps existentially or metaphysically.
Biologically, at the time the husband died, each baby was only half of a whole.
But, the Ninth Circuit didn't see it that way. They ruled that the babies are entitled to have yours and my tax dollars support them. Ok, to be honest, the decision is based on Arizona's definition of "dependent," and the twins apparently fit that definition. Now we get to pay back seven years of two sets of survivor's benefits given that we've finally reached the end of the case.
It just sounds too weird to me. The courts are catching up with technology?
But to round things out, Massachusetts Supreme Court says that an after-death conceived baby can inherit from the deceased parent.
Will it ever end?
ACLU Drapes Cross, Reagan Rolls Over In CasketOK, I'll admit it. If the ACLU would have me, I'd probably be a card-carrying member. But with my views, I got kicked out. Go figure.
Frankly, I agree with some of the positions they take. Perhaps a significant number, I don't. I agree that the constitution bars the establishment of religion. After all, I'm a fallen Christian. My dad was a Congregational minister, but I had so much of it as a kid, I don't go to church much anymore.
Much to my 71-year old mother's disappointment. She won't even qualify me as a "two-fer" (Christmas and Easter) anymore. Maybe I'll become a Buddhist. I can really relate to the Zen aspect of meditation.
Ohhhhmmmmm. Can't you feel it?
OK, admittedly, I'm not happy with this most recent decision. And just to make sure there's full disclosure here, I am a veteran. I've gotten that email about when the ACLU is going to sue to remove the crosses from Arlington National Cemetery (be careful, there are not that many there - it's mostly plain headstones).
But, it appears that some WWI veterans planted a memorial (in 1934) at Sunrise Rock in Mojave. Now, some enterprising ACLU member sued, and won a victory in the 9th Circuit.
As a consequence of this silly decision, right now the cross is draped. It's a sad state of affairs. We're burying a President. Flags are at half staff.
Can't we just get over it? Religion is part of our country's values. Sure, there are lots of religions, and each has its own symbol. I don't want to take anything away from the star of David or any other religious symbol. As Judge Kozinski correctly points out, when the Park Service declines a request to erect a Buddhist Stupa but elects to leave up the cross, we've got an establishment problem. So, the real culprit here is the Park Service.
But, history has value, too. If someone has elected to create a memorial, we ought to be tolerant enough to allow each person to express his/her beliefs. If it takes 50, or even 100 ways of doing that to respect each religion, then fine.
If you want to put up prayer flags or a tonka, I've got no problem with that. But respect the cross, and all it stands for.
Otherwise, where do we draw the line? I think at "nothing" (the ACLU view) is just plain wrong.
Solvent Manufacturers Liable for Cleanup CostsDry cleaners have been liable for contamination they caused for some time, but not the manufacturers of the solvents that caused the contamination.
Until now. The First Appellate District in San Francisco put an end to that exclusion. Under certain circumstances. Manufacturers and suppliers of dry-cleaning solvent equipment can be held liable for hazardous waste cleanup costs if their operating instructions recommended dumping the waste into the sewer system.
This suit was filed under powerful, but little-used legislation known as the Polanco Act. It allows redevelopment agencies to sue prior polluters for the cost of cleanup, plus attorneys fees.
The City of Modesto Redevelopment Agency successfully argued that the manufacturers and suppliers of the solvents and equipment instructed dry cleaners to dump chlorinated solvents into sewers failed to issue warnings or recalls on the solvents and equipment.
Expect more lawsuits and an appeal to follow. I'll be watching this one. Expect, too, that lawyers will now seek to expand this ruling to all manufacturers of solvents and other contaminants.
Rollin', Rollin', Rollin' with NAFTAHere comes NAFTA. The U.S. Supreme Court today blocked an attempt by environmentalists and trucking companies - you know something's up when those two interest groups are on the same side - to stop Mexican trucks from entering the U.S.
Seems that the high court thought that the transportation department didn't have to "study" the environmental effects of the trucks from Mexico.
Environmentalists claimed that the pollution from these trucks in 2010 would be twice as much from U.S. trucks because we can't hold them to our standards.
Look for the next battle in Congress.